Tag Archives: beauty

From Gratitude to Generosity: A Thankful Heart

In Southern California, it takes a while for it to begin feeling like fall. But, ever-so-gradually, the weather begins to shift, the leaves begin to change, the air starts to get crisper, the Santa Ana winds start blowing in, and the nights get cooler. Despite some 80-degree days here and there, by mid-November the spirit of fall is in the air. With fires in fireplaces, pumpkin spices filling recipes and fragrances, and fantasy football leagues underway, the spirit of fall is just about as palpable as a pumpkin spiced late. Today marks a week from Thanksgiving, and just as the holiday swiftly approaches us, calendars may start to fill up and schedules may begin to get hectic. There may be errands to run, dinners to prepare, arrangements and décor to create, homes to fill, and mouths to feed. In a hectic and maybe chaotic time, I want to prepare our hearts for the meaning we may find in the holiday.

Thanksgiving is a time when we can surround ourselves with family and friends, and when we can open our homes to be filled with love, joy, and gratitude. Often, we associate the day with this sense of gratitude: we take time to reflect on what and who we are thankful for, we express our gratitude to our loved ones, and we act out of that gratitude that we have for others and for all the things that have filled up and have added meaning and significance to our lives. In this time of reflection and of thankfulness, what should our response be? How could our actions create a cradle of influence around this holiday, so that our actions are not just attributed to one day, one time, or one family dinner, but towards our every-day? How can we respond and act out of our gratitude?

That is where generosity comes in. You see, gratitude and generosity go hand in hand. Our state of mind most certainly influences our actions. Having a heart and mind that is rooted in thankfulness, then, nearly dictates the way that we treat those around us. The feeling we associate with gratitude, “a feeling of appreciation or thanks” or “the state of being grateful”, gives way to the action of generosity, “the quality of being kind, understanding, and not selfish: the quality of being generous”. Being generous, then, is the action in which we are “freely giving or sharing money and other valuable things; providing more than the amount that is needed or normal; showing kindness and concern for others”.

Over this next week, I hope to create a discussion in which we realize what gratitude and generosity mean to each of us, and in which we realize how this sense of gratitude empowers us to live out of a state of generosity. But, if we wish to see an outpour of generosity through our actions, we must first focus on the state of our minds and our hearts. You see, it is the state of our hearts that dictates our actions and impacts the profoundness of our actions. If we create a condition of gratitude in our hearts, then our actions will display that sense of thankfulness and kindness towards others. Eventually, we will see that thankfulness transform into generosity. We will notice that through our expression of thankfulness, we begin to put the wellness of others before the wellness of ourselves.

But, first, we must focus on the condition of our hearts and we must prepare the state of our minds. We must allow gratitude to be rooted in the depths of our hearts and become prevalent in the workings of our minds. If we want to see a transformation in the way that we treat others, we must inspire transformation in the way that we think of others. When we allow gratitude to rule our hearts and our minds, something changes. We begin to rid ourselves of selfishness, of self-seeking ambitions, of vanity, and of pride, and we, instead, assume selflessness, compassion, and empathy. When we reorient our thoughts through this prism of gratitude, we begin to place the condition of others before the condition of ourselves; we begin to think of others before we think of ourselves; we begin to care for others before we care for ourselves. When we allow gratitude a foothold into the workings of our hearts and minds, when we allow it enough room to reorient our hearts and minds, we may find that what started with one thankful thought and one generous feeling has transformed into an entirely new outlook and a wholly different attitude. The spirit of Thanksgiving, then, does not just become one day of thankfulness, but an entire lifestyle of thankfulness.

As we prepare for this season, let us deeply assess the workings of our hearts and minds so that we do not just assume this sense of gratitude for one day, or one holiday, but that this sense of gratitude begins to dictate how we live our lives. Let us allow gratitude to make its home in our hearts and minds so that our actions will instantaneously and organically follow. Let us realize that this day of thankfulness is a mere instant in a lifestyle of thankfulness, and let us allow this lifestyle of thankfulness begin to transform the way that we treat all those around us.

Stronger Together: A Response to Violence

Last Friday, an estimated 129 people were killed and another 350 people were wounded in three separate attacks carried out on the central city of Paris. While the world has been left in complete shock and devastation, the question of “How could this happen again?” still occupies most of our thoughts. It seems that over the past couple of years, or even weeks, our world has become prone to more violence and we are left wondering, in frustration, what we can do to help. We wonder, “Can we do anything to prevent this from happening again?” or “Will it ever get better?”

I believe it will get better. I believe that we have both a power within us individually and an undeniable force collectively that can eradicate violence and restore joy and peace.

Just about two years ago, I found myself in the beautiful City of Light. Paris has long been associated with light, love, magic, and beauty, and I was excited to go back after having first given my heart to this captivating city when I was just 18 years old. This time, though, my trip to Paris had placed me there just two weeks after the orchestrated attack on Charlie Hebdo. One day, I got on the metro and traveled to the memorial site where thousands of messages, flowers, and other sentimental gifts paid homage to the twelve individuals who had lost their lives in the attack. One message that gripped my heart read, “12 personnes à terre, 66 millions debout” which can be translated to mean “12 people fallen, 66 million people standing”. This message left such a profound impact on me because it beautifully illustrated a response to violence. You see, we do have a powerful reaction to violence. We are capable of responding to violence when we align ourselves with one another and when we draw upon the strength that we find in ourselves and in each other.

Standing up against violence in our personal lives and on a massive scale may cause us to respond in a way that we would not normally be inclined to. Where love, joy, and peace may be wholly absent or even partially concealed in these acts of violence, we must prevail in order to find them. Our reaction to violence, then, may lead us to cover those who succumb to violence with compassion, grace, and empathy, and to empower those victims of violence with love, peace, and hope. We must love in spite of violence so that our love not only affects the circumstances of violence, but so that our love begins to transform our own hearts. With this outpour of love and grace, we may find ourselves reaching out to that lonely kid at school, we may see ourselves comforting someone who has been bullied or teased, and we may listen to someone who entrusts us with their story of pain, abandonment, neglect, or brokenness. In this outpour of love, we may find ourselves learning to understand different people whose values, morals, ideologies, political preferences, religious views, or worldviews may be in opposition to ours. As we begin to grow in this act of love, we may find ourselves acting upon compassion, empathy, and grace to understand and overcome the destruction that may come from painful pasts, bitter hearts, vengeful ambitions, and the sting of abandonment. Combating violence, then, may urge us to selflessly place ourselves in the circumstances of another person. In these instances, we may need to set aside our flaming arrows in order to relate to the humanity of another person. We may need to check our ambitions in order to see the pain of another person. We may need to recognize the way in which we speak to another person or the way in which we talk about another person so as not to allow the language and behaviors of violence infiltrate our lives. We may need to initiate a revolution of compassion and empathy to break through the walls of hatred, bitterness, anger, and shame in order to bring to light the humanity that binds us all together. We may need to suppress the deceit we lead ourselves to believe: that difference separates us, that bitterness alienates us, and that vengeance prevails in destroying us. In finding love, joy, and peace in the midst of violence, we will realize the various ways that we are each bound in our humanity with one another.  When we realize commonalities in each other, when we bind ourselves in the humanity that we share, we will form a unity in combating violence wherever it occurs.

It may seem that individually standing up against violence will barely put a dent in the fight against mass atrocity. We may question the validity of turning off an offensive song, of speaking out against a crude joke, or even of boldly confronting violent actions. In trading an act of defense for an act of love and compassion, we may question whether or not these acts of love will truly conquer despair, bitterness, and pain. Yes, these actions, by themselves, may not wholly affect the continuous cycle of violence that is erupting throughout the world, but the collectivity of these individual acts of boldness, courage, integrity, and justice will create a supernatural and transcendent power that will undeniably puncture the prevalence of violence. The way in which we combat violence in our everyday lives, then, becomes significant and worthwhile.  When we realize the importance of individually standing up against violence, our eyes will be opened to the strength and magnitude of the collective impact of our actions. Once we understand that we each possess a power within us to stand up against violence, and once we draw upon that power collectively, we empower ourselves to be agents of transformation. With each action in which we overcome violence, we sustain the hope that our world will, again, know joy and peace. It is in light of this hope that we prevail against tragedies, against darkness, and against immense sorrow, for we know that this hope has the power to break through darkness and to sustain an everlasting peace. While we continue to act upon this hope, we may find ourselves bonded in our collective efforts to find the joy, light, and peace in our humanity, and in joining together to find that light, we may come to realize that we are more powerful together than we could ever be apart.

married life: beauty in the transition

I can’t believe Jason and I are about to celebrate our one year anniversary! Isn’t it almost scary how fast time flies? Because of the occasion on the horizon, I thought it was fitting to re-post this article from the lovely blog, The Refined Woman, started by my dear friend Kat Harris. Their blog has such beautiful influence.


Even if there is a longing to get married or date or have a family, can we all admit that single hood is truly one of the best stages in life? Yes, the contentment in that time can be a struggle because an internal longing for the future may allow the disintegration of the joyful present. But this time of beautiful aloneness ignites a sweet desire to discover who you are as a woman, and it offers the time to identify your identity: the quirks, the love languages, the passions. Think about it…it is the only season of complete freedom. you can take a Pilates class at 8am. you can loudly unload the dishwasher at midnight. you can take a nap at 5pm without a care. your girlfriends can sleepover whenever you please. you can blast Britney Spears when you are getting ready. It is such a time to cherish and use to better yourself through laughter, reading, and the allowance of any stretch of adventure.

Obviously, I am a major fan of singleness, and it seems that the majority who have entered the beauty of married-life look back on that time with more recognized gratitude. It prepares you. It stretches you in solitude. It seasons you with some of the sweetest, craziest, and most unforgettable memories and challenges. To digress, I must say first that being a wife is the best gift I have ever received. My abs have improved due to my consistent belly laughs, my character has strengthened from being lovingly challenged, my walls have slowly been knocked down due to feeling safe to communicate the good, the embarrassing, and the hard. In a brief conclusion: marriage makes everything better.


Yes, that’s a pretty extreme statement, but I stand behind it with full confidence, and I don’t believe I am speaking out of a “newlywed” mouth. The depth of our relationship cannot be shifted by circumstance; the foundation of our love is built on something so solid and unchanging; the grace we have learned to give comes from something greater.

So, now I live with a boy (yikes!). I kid. Honestly, the biggest transition has come in the form of being purposefully bothered by someone special, being tackled over and over on the bed as if I were his sibling (his excuse: he never had brothers!), and being surrounded by loud melodies and random acting scenes. I must admit that I love all of the above.

A little tidbit into the life of Jase and Lo: we have identical OCD. True stories: we have collided while picking up the same crumb off the floor; a dirty shirt on the dresser is utterly offensive; water drops or fingerprints on the counter are distracting. Oh, and when we arrive home at midnight from a vacation, we open all the mail, unpack, and make sure everything is in its place. We. Have. Problems. + what are we going to do when we have kids? Pray for us.

The point of sharing these silly quirks is to fully exclaim how easy it has been transitioning to living with a guy! I must brag on my husband for a second: he is the most helpful person I know, he is so aware of me emotionally even without me speaking, and he takes care of all of the man-jobs such as replacing light bulbs, cleaning the gutters, etc, etc. My eyes don’t even see those things. Sadly I know the stereotype of marriage is often distasteful, but it doesn’t have to be. I have realized that marriage is truly shaped around who you are as individuals and most importantly the foundation in which your marriage stands on.  Do. Not. Settle. Open communication is key. Fair expectations are a game changer. Owning your faults is the path to healthiness.

12112202_10107260813483454_2284598448239383218_nI must admit, marriage is such a learning process. We have been married for about a year, and it has taken about that long to truly get each other on the most internal level and get on a rhythm as a couple.  It took fights and misunderstandings and vulnerability to get there, but man is it worth it. I know we still have so much learning ahead of us, but it has been the most enriching journey to experience thus far. Yes, we are both who we are individually, pursuing our own passions with freedom and support, but we will never allow too much distance.  Our priority is creating intentional time together to talk deeply, to not talk deeply, to crush, to flirt, to be adventurous and random, to lay in bed all day. We were both saying last night that we have never enjoyed spending time together as much as we do now!

A lot of what has brought us where we are is from not pushing conflict under the rug, fighting well (oh crap, we don’t always do that), but in the end, the struggle, the slamming of doors, and the crazy emotions all end in this appreciation for each other that could have never stemmed from a la-dee-dah day. A little tiff or frustration is always rooted in something bigger. If you get to the root, you will always find sweetness and a greater grace.

To wrap it all up in one final thought: you are in this specific time and place for a brilliant purpose. Use it to prepare for what may lie ahead. A marriage is so much “easier” when you know yourself and see beauty in who God made you. When you know who you are as a woman, there is a sweet co-existence with your husband rather than a dangerous co-dependence. Yes, every story and transition is different, but marriage is so deeply satisfying when it isn’t rooted on yourselves. See the bigger picture. Be on each other’s team. Intentionally keep your relationship deep and exciting. Oh, and laugh. a lot.

Kennedy.Scruggs.Engagements.LindseySheaKatHarrisPhoto-95Questions Asked by The Refined Woman

When you were single, what did you think marriage would be like? I felt like I could only grasp a vision of marriage from what I saw in marriages around me. I knew it required work and intentional communication from watching my parents and from being the mediator in some of my sister and her husband’s productive arguments. I knew it was such a joy to have someone to live life and create a home with. I knew it would be infused with lots of laughter and sweet memories. Even after seeing these things played out in front of me, I realized all that I had envisioned was a distance from experiencing marriage in reality. It is so much more cultivating, life-giving, and deepening than what I imagined.

What has been better than you expected? Living with a boy. Traveling together is my favorite. Lazy days with him are too good. I feel more loved the more vulnerable I am (he’s an angel). Creating a home together. Just being together. Going on dates. Hanging with friends. Marriage honestly makes everything so much better.

What transition are you looking forward to, in your marriage? Every transition! Kids, changes in career, retirement ha!

Photos by: Kat Harris, Lindsey Brittain, and Sarah Shreves

[Agape] Loving the Silent

“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful”: words spoken by Malala Yousafzai in her address to Harvard University on September 27, 2013 as the Harvard Foundation presented her with the Humanitarian award. Malala is a pillar for human rights and the advancement for girl-child education around the world. With a passion to advance education in her home country, Pakistan, Malala began to write a blog for the BBC Urdu service. To protect her identity, she used a pseudonym. Her rising activism led her to be awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and to be nominated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2011. But, Taliban leaders schemed to kill her in response to her rising influence. Both Malala and her father’s passion to advance education withstood death threats from the Taliban and soon enough, Malala’s identity as the author of the BBC blog was revealed in a documentary made for the New York Times. Then, on October 9, 2012, as Malala was on her bus going home from school, Malala was forced to identify herself to a masked gunman who shot her with a single bullet that went through her head, neck, and shoulder. Her survival and her resilience during a long recovery process inspired people around the world to stand up against injustice.

After her attack, Malala went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 2014. Her influence allowed her to create the Malala Fund which raises awareness of the social and economic constraints on girl-child education and which empowers girls around the world to raise their voices, to realize their potential, and to demand change.

Malala is one of many voices that are speaking up for the silent. With a story such as hers, and so many others around the world, we should ask ourselves how we can use our voices to affect change and how we can speak up for those who may find it hard to speak up for themselves. In the United States, our freedom of speech is protected by our US Constitution, except when it infringes upon the rights of others. But, all in all, whether our speech is enlightening and encouraging, or even destructive and offensive, we, as US citizens, are granted free speech, a right that is not granted to all citizens of all countries around the world. How, then, with the power of this right that is granted to us, do we advocate for, do we speak for, those who find themselves silenced by their governments, by their social institutions, or even by their own peers? How do we love the silent?

Some instances may require us to defend this right subtly, mundanely, and habitually, as if it were an everyday task. Singers, whether they have just begun their careers, whether they are dedicated to advancing their careers, or whether they have been experienced in their profession for years, undergo voice exercises. They do not stop efforts to improve or sustain the strength and technicality of their voices once they have “made it”. These voice exercises are intended for singers in all stages of their careers in order to strengthen vocal cords, improve transitioning techniques, relieve tensions, maintain healthy singing practices, and prolong the impact of their voices. In the same way, then, that singers routinely check in on and improve their vocal capacity, we too should continually work to grow the strength and influence of our voices. We should be so accustomed to practicing and defending our voices, refining and affirming our voices, that it becomes second-nature to us. You see, each of us has a distinct voice and a voice that we can use to affect change throughout the world. We should locate our voices, we should strengthen our voices, and we should see where our voices carry so that those voices can have the greatest impact. When we begin to know the impact of our voices, we will be able to use our voices to help others, to speak for those who find their voices silenced, and to use the stories that our voices tell in order to empower others. You see, these daily voice lessons of ours have a far greater impact than on our own lives; our voice lessons enable our speech to be strengthened so that their fortitude can send waves of peace, assurance, and justice throughout the earth.

Other instances, then, may require us to use our voices bravely and boldly. At times, we may find that we need to scream and yell; to advocate for the equity of others and to defend the human rights of others. In these circumstances, we use the privilege of living in a country that defends our right to free speech in order to extend that right to those around the world. Certain times may call us to use those techniques in which we have strengthened our own voices in order to fight for the voices of others to be heard amid oppression, intolerance, and injustice. We may be called to allow our voices to carry and to send shock waves to other parts of the world in order that the force of those waves will inspire others to find and use their own voices in times of tribulation. It is the strength of the collectivity of our voices, then, that has the capacity to sustain life, to foster hope, to affect change, to inspire courageous acts, and to defeat terror, oppression, and injustice.

When we use our voices to locate and inspire the voices of others around the world, we form a chorus of voices whose influence cannot be contained. With a chorus determined to affect change and to advocate for the rights of others, the unity that sings of rightness, of justice, of equity, and of restoration is undeniable, and with such an undeniable force as that, the song of peace and of the reconciliation of hopes and dreams plays so that the whole world can hear. As we draw upon the strength inherent within us and the strength inherent within one another, let us use our voices so boldly and so loudly that we sing of this song of peace, empowerment, and justice to ends of the earth.

[Agape] Loving Those in Need

Have you ever felt helpless? Have you ever wondered, “What can I do?” or “How could I possibly help?” Have you ever been with a distraught friend, a concerned parent, or a heartbroken boyfriend or girlfriend and thought, “There is nothing I can do or say to make what they’re going through any easier”? Have you ever seen the ruins of a natural disaster or an international crisis and thought, “There is nothing I can do to help this”? Have you ever watched the fallout of a regional or civil war and thought, “I am too tiny to make a difference”? Have you ever felt the weight of the world’s problems on your shoulders and simultaneously felt the defeat of helplessness as you have considered, “I am only one person”?

About two years ago, I was living in Cape Town, South Africa where I attended the University of Cape Town. There was an organization on campus called SHAWCO which led groups of students to volunteer in townships around the city. My group went to a town called Kensington where we tutored English and Life Orientation Skills to middle-schoolers. One day, as we were riding with the kids back to our university, I sat next to one of the girls I had become good friends with. As she began to delve deeper into her story, she opened up about what she was struggling with in her family life and at school. Right before we came to her stop, she had told me that she had never told anyone what she had shared with me. As she stepped off the bus, she gave me a hug and a joyous grin despite all she had been through. She took my heart with her that day. As we continued to drive past other townships, I remember thinking, “How are we going to solve this problem?”, “How can anyone solve this problem?” Cape Town’s problems seemed too big for me and, suddenly, I felt helpless and hopeless.

The truth is, there is dire need around the world: needs that are not being met by their local and national governments, humanitarian crises, environmental disasters, epidemics, and neglect. But, you certainly do not need to jump on a plane and fly halfway across the world in order to meet people’s needs. In fact, you have the ability to respond to the world’s problems from any part of the world, wherever you may find yourself. The only qualifications you must have in order to effectively respond to the world’s problems are a selfless and compassionate heart and a willingness to respond.

So, before we act, before we jump, we must prepare our hearts. Before attempting to solve the world’s problems, we must assume selflessness and humility. Frankly, when we become burdened with the world’s problems, it is often because we are putting ourselves at the center of the world’s problems. We ask ourselves, “How can I possibly help?”, “What can I do to solve this?”, “How am I going to make a difference?” But, we need to limit our “I” questions and, instead, we need to begin to asking questions that center on “them”. We need to wonder “What are their needs?”, “In what ways can their needs be met?”, “How can we help them make a difference in their circumstances?” You see, when we shift our perspective from ourselves to those in need, we become more capable of helping them and strengthening them in finding their own solutions. When we ignore our own selfishness, our vision becomes clearer so that we are better able to notice the things that will clear the paths for these problems and circumstances to be solved.

After we prepare our hearts, then we can begin to prepare our feet; we can prepare for action. When we work on the willingness of our hearts, we will find that our actions will naturally follow. When we shift our attention to those in need, we will find that there is much that we can do from where we are. In Los Angeles, for example, the homeless population has risen 12% over the last two years, according to the Los Angeles Times. Among problems of rising rent prices, low wages, and an unwaveringly high unemployment rate, the LA Times states that “more than 44,000 homeless people were tallied in January [countywide], up from more than 39,000 in 2013,” in which well “over half — nearly 26,000 — were in the city of Los Angeles”. A notorious area in Los Angeles, Skid Row, which spans roughly 50 city blocks of Downtown Los Angeles, is comprised of nearly 20-25% of LA’s total population of homeless persons. Yet, despite these daunting statistics, stories continue to emerge in which people respond to this local epidemic: “Teens Buy 100 McDonald’s Burgers to Feed Homeless in Los Angeles”, “In upscale Pacific Palisades, reaching out to a rising homeless population”, “Emergency winter shelters for homeless set to open . . . across Los Angeles”. These stories are a testament of the simple and instinctive action that follows from a willing and selfless heart. When we shift our hearts toward those in need, when we prepare our hearts, the actions we should take are obvious. They are obvious because they center on the other person, or persons, instead of on our own selves.

Taken by Ellie Rosenblum

Taken by Ellie Rosenblum

Taken by Dave Galaway

Taken by Dave Galaway

So, when we respond to the world’s needs, when we love those in need, we shed off helplessness, hopelessness, and any burden we place on ourselves and we, instead, act out of empathy, compassion, selflessness, and love. When we begin to find that these people in need have more things in common with us than things they do not have in common with us, our actions are instantaneous, instinctive, and impactful. When we love first and then act, we change our mindset from viewing the world’s problems as personal problems and we search for ways to empower these people in need to address and overcome their circumstances.

[Agape] Loving Your Community

It has been said, and sung, that “where you invest your love, you invest your life.” But, what if we reverse that statement? Does it hold the same weight when we say, “where you invest your life, you invest your love.” What is the significance about where we choose to invest our lives? We all have a community or various communities that we belong to. Some of us have had multiple communities in multiple places that we have lived in and traveled to over the course of our lives. Others of us have had one single or immediate community that we have called our home for most of our lives. Still, while some of us have conscientiously chosen the communities we wished to be a part of and invest our lives in, others of us have been led away from our immediate communities to new and unfamiliar communities that we would soon call our permanent homes. But, the love we show to our communities and the relationships we build within those communities should remain the same whether or not we have willingly chosen those communities we are a part of. Regardless of what has led us to where we are today, and what has led us to call these places our homes, we must make a conscious effort to invest our love and lives into the communities that surround us.

They say, “Good fences make good neighbors,” but have these physical fences that we have automatically put up transpired to creating emotional or intellectual boundaries that we have set with our neighbors? How well do we know our neighbors? Do we know what goes on in their daily lives? Do we know where they work, if they have children, what brought them here, or what they enjoy to do? Frankly, it is impractical to know everything about all of your neighbors, but it is more than practical to begin saying hello to your neighbors, to start asking them about their days, or to even invite them to dinner. It is more than practical to begin fostering relationships with your neighbors. We have been placed in our communities for a distinct purpose to invest in those communities. So, whether we have delightedly chosen our communities or we have reluctantly stayed in our communities, we have a purpose to invest in the growth of our communities. More than that, we have a purpose to love those people who are joining alongside us in growing our communities. When we change our perspective on our communities, we realize the importance of investing in the lives of those who make up our community. Our neighbors, then, become more than people who we cross paths with each morning while we rush off to work. They become more than people we see driving down the street, walking their dogs, or playing with their kids outside. They become more than people we call when they play their music too loud late at night or when it seems like they are performing a tap routine on the floors of their upper-story apartments. When we realize the importance of investing in the relationships we form with our neighbors, we begin to slowly tear down emotional or intellectual fences we have unknowingly built up between ourselves and these familiar strangers. When we begin to invest in the lives of those around us, the way in which we connect to the world becomes more intertwined. When the authenticity of our relationships grows with each intentional bond we form with our neighbors, we allow that same authenticity to carry out into the relationships we form outside of our immediate communities.

When we begin to intentionally invest in the relationships with our neighbors, we will be more apt in investing in our cities. In the same way that we have purpose in our communities, we have a distinct purpose in our cities. Whether we are politically, culturally, artistically, intellectually, spiritually, or socially investing in our cities, we should not only know that we have influence in our cities, but we should believe in our influence. Furthermore, we must start acting out of our influence. For example, it is no concealed fact that local and city elections tend to have the least voter turnout among the various governmental elections, but it is a troublesome fact, nonetheless. If we have the most significant influence in the matters of our cities compared to the matters of our states or of our nation as a whole, then we should use our voices, talents, and passions to invest in our cities. We should also be aware of what is going on in our cities: things our city is thriving in, areas of need, and how our cities are being led. Once we are aware of the circumstances of our cities, we will begin to use our influence and our talents to contribute to the work of our cities. Whether by our own will or by the will of others, we have been placed in our cities for a specific purpose. We each have the capacity to love our cities through our talents, through our ambitions, through our passions, and through our inclinations in order to watch it grow.

So, let us love on our neighbors and let us invest in the growth of our communities. Let us believe in where our lives have guided us and let us use our strengths and talents to impact the various communities we have become a part of. For, where we invest our lives, we invest our love.